On resolutions, procrastinations and mind games

I'm thinking of...photo © 2008 Davide Restivo | more info (via: Wylio)

What usually happens when most people start to carry out a resolution? They start with enthusiasm. They see some quick results and get motivated to do more. They continue on. But the results come in more and more slowly. In some time, the initial enthusiasm wanes. They either get bored or are frustrated when they don’t see progress showing up regularly. In their minds, they know that this is how it goes, they had known from the beginning. They know that if they stick it out, they will see the results, they will achieve their goals.

The thing with success is, it has no fixed arrival time. It has a knack for frustrating you, playing with you. But it is a good fellow. If you are persistent, it shows up, usually when you least expect it. You probably would like it to be more courteous, to announce when it will arrive and then stick to its promise. But think about it, would that really be exciting? When you were young(maybe you still are :)) whom were you attracted to most? The girl or the guy who were predictable, or the ones who were a mystery, hard to get? Think about it. Even if you don’t agree with me on this, you will have to agree that there is not much you can do about how success behaves.

We never have the whole road map to a particular goal. There might be sudden, unforeseen changes that come up. Plans usually don’t go as anticipated, they have to be constantly modified to suit the current situation. People don’t like that. They take every small failure seriously and start loosing confidence, having doubts. A lot of these doubts and fears come because of intellectualizing. People start imagining that they might not achieve their goals, that they may end up hurt more and it may be better to stop now and save effort and heart-break.

Intellect, while being such a strong tool, can also become a bane if we don’t use it properly. Too often, we unnecessarily start rethinking about something we know we should do. Our mind starts playing tricks with us. We start giving ourselves excuses. Procrastination is funny and intriguing that way, we know we need to do something for our own good, and that we will later repent not doing it, but we still don’t do it. We let it pass. Sometimes we even don’t accept that we don’t want to do it. We, consciously, let ourselves analyze the whole thing until the time for action is past. I find it fascinating, the way the mind works. It may seem most people have way lesser control on their own thoughts and, consequently, actions, than they would want to believe. Is there a way to control this tendency of the mind to put off? I think there is. Here are some common excuses that our mind puts up(let me know if you can think of something else, I’ll add it here).

1. I can’t do my best today.This is a very common excuse, and a very foolish one. Of course you can’t do your best everyday and every time. But this should not stop you from continuing. In fact, its your attitude during the bad days that determines how far you will go. Everyone will progress on a good day. On bad days, whatever little you can do, will add up to your results and help maintain the habit. When you continually do something, despite your mind’s tantrums, your mind slowly stops complaining and gets used to it, just like a stubborn child. It will understand that it’s tantrums don’t yield any results and will yield to your commands, first grudgingly then, by habit. Showing up every time is winning half the battle, you don’t have to be perfect every time, but if you keep showing up, you will be perfect one day. Show up, everyday!

2. I am not in the mood today, I will see tomorrow. Really? Are you sure you will come back tomorrow? You know it inside you are accepting defeat today and it will be so much more difficult tomorrow. These occasions are also an opportunity to test your resolution. Try doing it without being in the mood. We live so much of our lives in a planned way. We think about everything before doing it. Doing something when you don’t really want to do it can be a totally different experience, even a rewarding one. A lot of successful people will attest to the fact that their best success came when they least expected it, in times when they were tired and weary, but continued. When I was learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I would feel like not going on the days when I was not in the mood. It was hard exercise even on the good days. But I knew I needed to be regular. So, on one of those off-mood days, I told myself that I’ll allow myself to not be my best and just go ahead with the class. That day I felt more relaxed and at ease, I performed better while rolling(the part of the class where we actually apply our skills on each other in a semi-fight) and, most importantly, I enjoyed the class more! This was such a welcome surprise!

There might be genuine reasons of fatigue. But mostly, fatigue is just a function of mind. How to know when you are genuinely tired? Here is how – If you have to ask yourself this question, you are not. When you are tired enough to not be able to continue, you will not have to think about whether you should continue or not. Your body will simply refuse to go on without rest. We were encouraged to practice Jiu Jitsu when we were tired as, according to my instructor , it was while we were tired that we learnt most. I found with experience, he was right. Go ahead, test your limits. Carry on when you don’t want to, new doors will open for you. There are absolutely no limits to what a human body can perform. The only limits to our selves, are the ones that we create, in our minds. Every other day we hear about fantastic feats of human endurance, they are not super humans but people with a disciplined mind. A disciplined body will follow when your mind is disciplined.

3. I am not getting proper results, I’ll rethink my strategy and start again. There is no use continuing with this flawed process. This is another slick trick of the mind. I believe what helps here is keeping a specific part of the day to analyze and make changes to your strategy. Journal writing helps a lot here. Usually, if you don’t let your mind have its way when it offers this excuse, you will find later that it was all a mirage created by the lazy but cunning creature that your mind is. In the event, you find later that your mind was indeed true, you would have lost just a day’s work. That’s a small price to pay for the certainty that this approach provides you. For an effort spanning multiple weeks or months or years, a lost day is a small price to pay. At least you won’t have to redoubt your decision.

Remember that a plan is always an evolving creature. You usually don’t finish with the plan you initially set out with. You have to constantly keep revisiting and modifying it according to the situation.

4. I need a fun break today. Oh! a whole day!? Won’t a few minutes’ break help? Maybe you can try deep breathing or meditation, take a walk, or hit the gym for a while? If you already have fixed days to rest and rejuvenate, you should not feel the need for frequent breaks. If you do, it may mean you have to revisit your work schedule vis-a-vis your fun schedule. It pays to keep fixed amount of time for fun. Most people, when they initially set their schedule to work towards a resolution, are overly enthusiastic and give themselves very little time for fun. Such a schedule can’t last very long. Set ample time for fun. Have specific parts of the day, and certain days of the week marked for fun. This makes you more focused during your work hours and takes away the ‘fun-break’ excuse from your mind. While you are working, the fun time also acts as a sort of a reward that you can look forward to. Don’t fret if you don’t know how much time you should keep for fun, you will find that out in time, as you keep modifying your plan.

In spite of all this, we should remember that we are humans. Nothing works exactly as we plan it to. Don’t be too hard on yourself and allow yourself to take sudden breaks for fun once in a while. I think, if your goals are aligned towards what genuinely gives you happiness , you will see less occasions when you have to fight with your mind to work towards them.

5. I’ll do it later in the day. That ‘later in the day’ is more likely to become ‘sometime tomorrow’. You know that too, don’t you? This excuse arises when your schedule is too stretchable. Your schedule being stretchable can have 2 reasons behind it. Either you are not motivated enough or you really love your work. If it is the latter, I congratulate you, few find that they actually love what they need to do. You probably feel like working all the time and have to pull yourself away from your goal to make time for other things. If it is the former, you need to talk to yourself. Why did you start on this particular goal? Why is it so important to you? What will be the consequences of not doing it and what will be your options then? It will help to keep a vision board somewhere you can see easily. Write down your goal on it. If you feel like, write down why you are after this goal. It will help keep you focused during the day.

Schedules are best when they are neither too rigid(very hard on yourself, fear based) nor too flexible(lack sufficient motivation).

Have a fixed schedule where fun and work get their own, equal spaces. It serves well to keep them in their own places.

6. Maybe it is not as important as I thought it was! Hmmm. This question again is to be left for journaling time. It will help if you just go on with your schedule and take up your goals when you pick up your journal. In fact, if you are in the habit of journal writing, such doubts get caught and addressed very early on. The vision board idea above and journaling will help you narrow down on the right goals for you and keep you focused .

7. This is probably not the right goal for me. Read 6 above.

8. Why should I do it if I don’t like it! Well.. That’s for you to answer. No one can decide for you what you should do. If you allow others to decide for you, allow them to decide about the results too. Don’t complain that you don’t like the results. If you don’t like that, take up responsibility for your own life and decide what you ought to do and why. Before being able to successfully achieve a goal, you have to have clarity and motivation towards them. Long term motivation for a goal will come only if it was chosen by you and is monitored by you. Find out the right goals for you first.

Procrastination results from not setting and monitoring your goals properly. If you want something, isn’t it common sense to keep your focus on it? Law of attraction also dictates the same. Write down your goals, visit them often, refine them often, keep them in your mind… right action and discipline will automatically follow.

A lot of times, procrastination is a strong but fleeting feeling. It will pass in a while. It may help to make your mind wait for a while before it can offer it’s advice(I’ll suggest the time before you sleep for analysis). In the mean time, just go ahead and do what you had decided, don’t analyze.

2 Comments

  • ashish
    December 19, 2010 - 11:09 am | Permalink

    interesting, very interesting! mind-bogglingly always needs to be tackled effectively…yes we need to understand our limits and not stop working…thanks for a good piece! :)

    • Rahul
      December 19, 2010 - 3:58 pm | Permalink

      The mind is fascinating, isn’t it :) ? I am glad you liked the post.

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